Chief Election Officer: EBC to review operations as court suggests

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Chief Election Officer Fern Nancis-Scope –

Chief Election Officer, Fern Narcis-Scope, says the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) will review the comments of the Court of Appeal in the Lengua/Indian Walk electoral district election petition and make the necessary adjustments in its operations for future elections.

On March 26, Justices of Appeal Charmaine Pemberton, Vasheist Kokaram, and Carla Brown-Antoine dismissed the United National Congress’s challenge of the results in the district, which is in the Princes Town Regional Corporation. The judges held that the EBC correctly rejected a disputed special ballot, as provided for by the election rules.

In a statement immediately after the court’s ruling, Narcis-Scope also said, “Notwithstanding the adversarial nature of litigation, the commission acknowledges all political parties as important stakeholders in this country’s democratic process.”

The UNC filed the petition on August 21, 2023, after two recounts led to the PNM’s candidate Autly Granthume being announced the winner over the UNC’s Nicole Gopaul-Jones on election night, August 14, 2023. Granthume initially received 1,430 votes compared to Gopaul-Jones’s 1,425. At the end of the first recount, each candidate had 1,428 votes.

The returning officer rejected a special ballot in favour of Gopaul-Jones – which would have broken the tie.

Gopaul-Jones challenged the rejection of the ballot, insisting it was valid and ought to have been counted. The EBC maintained its reasoning for rejecting the ballot as required by election rules under the Representation of the People Act.

The EBC declared a fresh election for the district after the returning officer declared the election void. The Appeal Court’s decision is final. In their ruling, the judges offered advice to the parties.